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Originally published Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Concert review

Circus troupe Panic! steals the limelight

So, a ballerina, a contortionist, a belly dancer, a stilt-walker, a dominatrix and some other...

Special to The Seattle Times

So, a ballerina, a contortionist, a belly dancer, a stilt-walker, a dominatrix and some other guy in leather walk into a bar ... or an arena, whatever the case may be. It's no joke: Panic! At the Disco brought a parade of lewd circus performers to the Everett Events Center Sunday night. And at times, the dancers and actors upstaged the Las Vegas pop-punk foursome.

Panic's theatrical live show (dubbed the "Nothing Rhymes With Circus Tour") padded virtually every song with dance numbers, skits and tricks performed by a six-member troupe. They donned barely-there costumes, groped themselves and each other, and loosely re-enacted moments from the songs (a song about a first lap dance gave a particular eyeful to the crowd of teenagers). But while the performers were writhing, frolicking and contorting, singer Brendon Urie and his bandmates appeared a little weary (or wary) of the circus life.

The four musicians seemed to go through the motions of a show they've been doing for a month now — especially in the first half. They interacted very little with the backup troupe or with each other. Apart from some dramatic makeup and a couple of rehearsed ringmaster speeches from Urie, Panic could have been in a different show from its background entertainers.

This disconnect didn't diminish the energy of the music, though, fueled by the continuous high-pitched shriek of the crowd. Panic tore through every song on its 2005 debut "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," starting with the album's opening number "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage" and ending with the last track, "Build God, Then We'll Talk." They also threw in a couple of covers — a knockout rendition of Queen's "Killer Queen," and an uninspiring version of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," never mentioning to the audience, which was young enough to need to be told, that they didn't write those songs.

The band's live show complements the music, already theatrical with its new-wave keyboard and Urie's Broadway-ready baritone. But Panic could go much farther blending its radio-friendly songs with the ... dare I say? ... performance art they're already hinting at. One of the best moments of the show was when Urie joined the dancers for a brief soft-shoe. Readily mingling music and mayhem could make for a much more interesting performance on the whole and could introduce a certain brand of theatrics to a crowd that might not frequent conventional plays.

The question is, would the band's fans go for it? When Panic toured with highly theatrical punk/cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls this summer (a planned Seattle show was canceled), fans booed the twosome. Maybe that's why the Panic boys (all under 21) don't want to go too far themselves. For the average concertgoer, a hint of clown makeup and some bump-and-grind might be enough.

Opening were Jack's Mannequin, the solo project of Andrew McMahon, lead singer of Something Corporate, and Cobra Starship, who had a moment of fame this summer with their single "Bring It," featured in the campy hit "Snakes on a Plane."

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